Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something
From ticket booths to 1,000,000 customers — a few reflections on selling.
Selling gets a bad rep. It conjures up images of used car salesmen and deceptive jokers selling you junk you don’t need.
But I’ve been selling for a long time. Really since I can remember. And that experience has taught me that selling is fundamental. Selling is relational. It’s the basis for cooperation that helps each of us, with our own unique skills and abilities, lend the fruits of those to one another. As my Grandpa used to say, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something…”
One of my earliest experiences selling was as a teenager. My brother and I were roped into working the ticket booth for a small town music festival known as Celebrate De Pere. We were each assigned a small shed-like stand that surrounded a grassy field where Wisconsinites gathered to hear 80’s cover songs.
We soon discovered that each shed was equipped with walkie talkies and we promptly began harassing each other over the radios. Then, to make things more fun, I suggested we have a little bet as to who could sell the most tickets that night.
Soon, middle-aged people from all over Northeast Wisconsin began pouring into the venue and the contest was on!
I hadn’t really attended this event before and I didn’t actually know what my new customers planned to do with the tickets. Were they gonna buy funnel cakes? Maybe some cheese curds?
“Look kid we need beer!”
After just a few minutes of asking my patrons, they quite emphatically told me, “Look kid we need beer!” How couldn’t I see that? This story is set in Wisconsin, after all.
It’s funny, but at that moment, my customer was conveying to me their true want. They didn’t want my tickets, they wanted to have a fun evening, a time to kick back and relax, and yes, that included beer.
In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human, he says, “being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than having the right answers.”
See, in my brother’s booth, every time a customer arrived for tickets and asked the price, they’d answer $1. The right answer to be sure, but the wrong question. I began to shift that question back to the customer, to position it in their own terms, and in their own interest. I’d respond, “well how many beers do you want?” I learned that most couples planned to consume 4 beers. That equates to one full sheet of tickets, or $20. From that moment on, I didn’t sell tickets in any smaller quantities than whole $20 sheets.
In another of Daniel Pink’s books on selling he writes, “Don’t try to increase what customers can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them.”
“Great marketing is putting the customer’s interests ahead of your own. In short, it’s serving others.”
And that is really the heart of what makes selling and marketing so magical. Great marketing is putting the customer’s interests ahead of your own. In short, it’s serving others. It requires listening, understanding, and then creative problem solving on their behalf to help meet their needs and wants. And, if we do our job well, we benefit too. It’s a win / win scenario that enriches both people.
In the early days of the company we struggled selling “DVD duplicates.” We converted everything to DVD then, and couldn’t understand why customers wouldn’t want a duplicate DVD for their family members. One day we were talking to a customer and helping them place an order when they said, “I don’t see anywhere on your website to order an extra copy?” It was a light bulb moment. We had the right answer, as technically these were called “duplicates” but, it was the wrong question. We hadn’t been truly putting the customers’ interests first. After that call, we immediately changed all language on the site to read “extra copies” and overnight, quadrupled the number we sold.
“overnight, quadrupled the number we sold”
When done right, sales and marketing leads to outcomes that benefit everyone. And it’s through this most basic form of human cooperation, lending what we have to offer to others, that the economic pie of the world increases.
The best part is we aren’t selling people a night out kicking back with Miller Light and the smooth sounds of a Bon Jovi tribute band.
What Legacybox sells is infinitely more valuable.
We sell the remembrance of the one thing they cannot produce more of: they’re time.
We meet not only a want, but a truly felt need. We help people connect with their loved ones, and celebrate their shared memories. And through selling, we’ve been privileged to do that for over 1,000,000 families and counting.
And if you don’t believe the economic pie of the world has increased a bit, here’s the best part. Those sales created 150 new jobs in 2020 alone.
That, in a year of record unemployment, in a year full of bad news, is a ray of light.
And yes, back in Wisconsin, I totally won the bet.